SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) – Transit workers across California can begin registering for vaccines Monday, as part of the latest change to the state’s constantly evolving distribution plan.
In a joint announcement last week, the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) and Amalgamated Transit Union Local 265, said the news felt like “Christmas in March.”READ MORE: Santa Rosa Police Arrest Man Suspected Of Sexually Assaulting Multiple Juvenile Victims
The agency’s 2,100 workers have been separated into tiers within the organization itself, with frontline drivers and operators slated to get the vaccine first, using a special registration code.
As of Monday afternoon, 300 VTA employees had already been vaccinated. Starting Tuesday, 100 doses per day have been earmarked for the transit workers at the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds, and will continue to be set aside at least every day this week.
At that daily pace, the additional 400 workers getting doses from Tuesday to Friday represent 30-40% of the frontline staff, according to VTA spokesperson Ken Blackstone.
Since it opened in early February, VTA has been providing free rides to Levi’s Stadium, the state’s largest mass vaccination site. But since January, at least 65 union members have tested positive for COVID-19, and one employee has died, according to John Courtney, president of ATU Local 265.
“So it was quite ironic that we were once again being put out there as frontline workers, and not really being protected the way we should have been,” said Courtney.READ MORE: COVID Recovery: California Legislature OKs Bill To Help Displaced Workers
Courtney said the union was disappointed when the vaccine priority list was updated, and transit workers were moved down. VTA banded together with several unions to convince the state and Santa Clara County to move the transit workers up the list.
“We’ve been taking our licks all along and just we just keep doing our job. We were very hopeful that the politicians and the decision makers would come to their senses,” said Courtney.
Officials said they are aware that there are many industries that are still waiting for their turn to be vaccinated.
“We just feel that this is a good start. And we are welcoming anyone who wants to piggyback on our argument and our reasons for being vaccinated. We support anyone’s cause to be vaccinated,” the union president went on to say.
“This is not a competition for us. We are just advocating for our workers, along with our unions and we’re glad that it’s our turn,” said Blackstone.
Diana, a VTA bus driver for seven years, is still recovering from the disease, which kept her bedridden for two weeks in January. It was an experience she said was “just horrible”, adding that the vaccines are a long time coming.MORE NEWS: UPDATE: Kristin Smart Murder Suspect Paul Flores, Father Make First Court Appearance
“I’m very glad that happened. We’ve been wanting that to happen,” said Diana.